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A parody religion or mock religion is a belief system that challenges the spiritual convictions of others, often through humor, satire, or burlesque (literary ridicule). Often constructed to achieve a specific purpose related to another belief system, a parody religion can be a parody of several religions, sects, gurus, cults, or new religious movements at the same time, or even a parody of no particular religion – instead parodying the concept of religious belief itself. Some parody religions emphasise having fun; the new faith may serve as a convenient excuse for pleasant social interaction among the like-minded.
One approach of parody religions aims to highlight deficiencies in particular pro-religious arguments – following the logic that if a given argument can also be used to support a clear parody, then the original argument is clearly flawed. An example of this is the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, which parodies the demand for equal time employed by intelligent design and creationism.
Occasionally, a parody religion may offer ordination by mail or on-line at a nominal fee, seeking equal recognition for its clergy/officiants – under freedom of religion provisions, including the 1st and 14th amendments to the United States Constitution – to legally solemnise marriages. Parody religions also have sought the same reasonable accommodation legally afforded to mainstream religions, including religious-specific garb or headgear. A U.S. federal court ruled in 2016 that Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster ("Pastafarianism") is not a religion, but Pastafarianism or "The Church of the Latter-Day Dude" (Dudeism) have been accommodated to some extent by a few U.S. states and by some other countries.
Several religions that are considered as parody religions have a number of relatively serious followers who embrace the perceived absurdity of these religions as spiritually significant, a decidedly post-modern approach to religion. For instance, in Discordianism, it can be hard to tell whether even these "serious" followers are not just taking part in an even bigger joke.
The following were created as parodies of particular religious beliefs:
|Eventualism||A satire on Scientology-like religions which appeared in the movie Schizopolis|||
|Invisible Pink Unicorn||A parody of theist definitions of God. It also highlights the arbitrary and unfalsifiable nature of religious belief, in a similar way to Russell's teapot.|||
|Kibology||A humorous Usenet-based satire of religion|||
|Landover Baptist Church||A satiric parody of Fundamentalist Christianity.|||
|Last Thursdayism||A joke version of omphalism that argues that the universe was created last Thursday, created to demonstrate problems with unfalsifiable beliefs, and the variant Next Wednesdayism inspired by John Landis's running movie gag See You Next Wednesday.|||
|Pastafarianism, or the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster||A parody of intelligent design, creationism, and religion in general, as a modern version of Russell's teapot.|||
|Tarvuism||A spoof religion that British comedians Peter Serafinowicz and Robert Popper invented for the television show Look Around You that parodied instructional religious videos such as those of Scientologists and Christians.|||
|First Church of the Last Laugh||The spoof religion behind the annual Saint Stupid's Day Parade in San Francisco.|||
The following post-modern religions that may be seen as elaborate parodies of already-existent religions:
|The All-Joking, All-Drunken Synod of Fools and Jesters||A social club founded by Peter I of Russia. It often got into controversies for mocking the church.|||
|Bokononism||A fictional religion from Kurt Vonnegut's novel Cat's Cradle, which promotes harmless comforting lies called foma. Its principal text, The Books of Bokonon, is a parody of the New Testament. See also the Church of God the Utterly Indifferent in Kurt Vonnegut's The Sirens of Titan.|||
|Church of Euthanasia||The Church of Euthanasia is a "non-profit educational foundation devoted to restoring balance between Humans and the remaining species on Earth." The Church uses sermons, music, culture jamming, publicity stunts and direct action to highlight Earth's unsustainable population. The Church is notorious for its conflicts with Pro-life Christian activists.|||
|Church of the SubGenius||Founded in 1979. Often regarded as a parody of religion in general, with elements of fundamentalist Christianity, Zen, Scientology, new-age cults, pop-psychology, and motivational sales techniques amongst others, it has become a movement in its own right, inspiring several books, art exhibits, rock albums, conventions, and novelty items.|||
|The Cult of Kek||An internet religion associated with 4chan's /pol/, the far-right movement known as the "alt-right", and online supporters of 45th U.S. president, Donald Trump. Adherents satirically worship a cartoon frog called "Pepe" as the reincarnation of the Egyptian deity Kek, a harbinger of chaos and destruction.|||
|Dudeism||A religion based on the 1998 film The Big Lebowski, in which the titular character, also known as "the Dude", is revered as a guru. The adherents consider the religion a modern form of Taoism.|||
|Discordianism||It is based on the book 1965 Principia Discordia. Its principal deity is the goddess of chaos Discordia (Greek Eris).|||
|Dinkoism||Dinkoism is a parody religion that places Dinkan, a comic character from Malayalam Children's magazine Balamangalam, as the one true God and the creator of the Universe. It is very similar to Pastafarianism that worships The Flying Spaghetti Monster. Dinkoism was organized by some independent social welfare groups of Kerala, India as a means to mock blind faith and creatively criticise religious intolerance. It had its origins in the social media. Its principal deity is also Dinkan.|||
|Flying Spaghetti Monster||A parody established in 2005 in Kansas to mock religious teachings in schools.|
|Gadgetology||Founded in Russia around 2010 by Nizhny Novgorod, this religion venerates the cartoon character Gadget Hackwrench from the syndicated Disney animated cartoon series Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers. The religion has formed three non-exclusive currents: Traditionalist, Progressivist, and Apocalyptic.|||
|Googlism||A satirical church which advocates naming the search engine Google a god; due to nine perceived similarities between it and the common definitions of what makes a deity.|||
|Iglesia Maradoniana ("Church of Maradona")||It was formed by an Argentinian group of fans of the late association football player Diego Armando Maradona. The adherents baptize themselves by slapping a football, which is a reference to the 1986 "Hand of God" goal.|||
|Jediism||In 2001 following an Internet campaign, the fictional Star Wars "religion" of the Jedi became a parody religion in several Commonwealth countries as 1.5% of the New Zealand, 0.4% of the Australia and 0.7% of the UK population stated their religion as Jedi in the official census (see Jedi census).|||
|Kopimism||An internet-based religion based on the belief that file sharing is a sacred virtue which must remain protected. It was given recognition by the Swedish government in January 2012. It was founded by a philosophy student, Isak Gerson.|||
|Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption||A religious movement for Last Week Tonight with John Oliver to satirize prosperity theology and the way the IRS deals with churches.|||
|Matrixism, or The Path of the One||A new religious movement inspired by the 1999 movie The Matrix. It appeared online in 2004. The adherents claim belief in a multilayered subjective reality and await the return of their prophet, the One.|||
|Silinism||The official religion of the micronation of the Aerican Empire, which holds a giant penguin named Forsteri as its central figure.|||
|Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence||A drag performance group that lampoons religion to raise awareness for mostly LGBT causes.|||
|United Church of Bacon||Founded in 2010 in Las Vegas to protest discrimination against nonbelievers, it had 25,000 members in 2020.|||
|Zone Theory||A parody of religion and self-help books by comedy duo Tim & Eric.|||
I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.— Stephen F. Roberts
Many atheists, including Richard Dawkins, use parody religions such as those of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and the Invisible Pink Unicorn – as well as ancient gods like Zeus and Thor – as modern versions of Russell's teapot to argue that the burden of proof is on the believer, not the atheist.
Dawkins also created a parody of the criticism of atheism, coining the term athorism, or the firm belief that the Norse deity Thor does not exist. The intention is to emphasize the claim that atheism is not a form of religious creed, but instead merely denial of beliefs. A common challenge against atheism is the idea that atheism is itself a form of "faith", a belief without proof. The theist might say "No one can prove that God does not exist, therefore an atheist is exercising faith by asserting that there is no God." Dawkins argues that by replacing the word "God" with "Thor" one should see that the assertion is fallacious. The burden of proof, he claims, rests upon the believer in the supernatural, not upon the non-believer who considers such things unlikely. Athorism is an attempt to illustrate through absurdity that there is no logical difference between disbelieving particular religions.